Cultivating Joy, Letting Go of Shame — A Lenten Journey

It’s the mid-semester struggle time.

Somehow I thought that since this semester, I am supervising student teachers rather than teaching a full class, I would not feel the struggle that typically comes up in mid-March.

But, in the midst of too many service commitments, multiple spring semester presentations coming up, a mid-term in my Chinese class, my commitment to spending more time with and energy towards my family, data collection, analysis and attempts at writing, I find myself struggling with the typical exhaustion and overwhelm that comes around week 7 of every semester.

Fortunately, it’s also Lent, a time that I’ve taken over the last couple of years to reflect and focus on regathering myself.  This year, my church is engaging in a study around what we are cultivating and letting go. I’ve decided to use these 40 days to cultivate joy and let go of shame.

Cultivating joy has been surprisingly easy and wonderfully encouraging.  Most joy comes through family and community: seeing those I’m deeply invested in thrive around me, spending time with friends (many of whom are colleagues and students/ former students) who I don’t often get to connect with in person, being present in everyday moments with my family, remembering to live purposefully.

Letting go of shame has not been as easy (as it’s my default emotion when I make a mistake), but I’m grateful for the accountability of posting about the journey as I walk it and the encouragement of my family and friends in this respect as well.  Yes, I am on a continual journey of letting go of overcommitment, but I’m also going to be gentle with the fact that 40 years of overcommitment isn’t undone overnight.  I’m going to rely on my “accountability besties” to help me prioritize. I’m going to do what I can, find joy in the journey and let go of the things I really don’t need to feel badly about.

During the busiest, most overwhelming part of the semester, intentionally finding and cultivating joy while letting go of multiple sources of shame inherent in academic institutions, a mom-shaming culture, and a too-busy life, these shifts in perspective goes a long way.  And, in my own way, they are an act of radical resistance to engage in Lent in a way that does not promote continual self-deprivation, but focuses on a regathering of self to fulfill one’s calling.

I’m going to breathe, cultivate, let go, and keep walking.